Mercury in Fish

Microorganisms (bacteria, phytoplankton in the ocean, and fungi) convert inorganic mercury to methylmercury. Methylmercury released from microorganisms can enter the water or soil and remain there for a long time, particularly if the methylmercury becomes attached to small particles in the soil or water. Mercury usually stays on the surface of sediments or soil and does not move through the soil to underground water. If mercury enters the water in any form, it is likely to settle to the bottom where it can remain for a long time.

Mercury can enter and accumulate in the food chain. The form of mercury that accumulates in the food chain is methylmercury. Inorganic mercury does not accumulate up the food chain to any extent. When small fish eat the methylmercury in food, it goes into their tissues. When larger fish eat smaller fish or other organisms that contain methylmercury, most of the methylmercury originally present in the small fish will then be stored in the bodies of the larger fish. As a result, the larger and older fish living in contaminated waters build up the highest amounts of methylmercury in their bodies. Saltwater fish (especially sharks and swordfish) that live a long time and can grow to a very large size tend to have the highest levels of mercury in their bodies.

There were 120 reports about exceeded mercury levels in Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed within EU mainly fish coming from all parts of the globe for 2009 – April 2010, what means that every 4th day was found a contaminated food on the market during this period.

 Records on mercury in RASFF for period 2009 - April 2010 (full list) 19.61 Kb

Mercury levels in fish from the Czech Republic can be found in the press release from February 2009.

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